Tomato plants are one of the best producers on the garden scene—which often means gardeners end up with more tomatoes than they can use in one season! One of the best ways to solve this “problem” is by freezing your tomatoes. That way you can enjoy them later on!
If you want to know how to freeze tomatoes and avoid wasting from your garden’s bumper crop, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn all there is to know about how to freeze tomatoes!
What Tools Do I Need to Freeze Tomatoes?
When considering how to freeze tomatoes, you want the right tools to get the job done properly.
Fortunately, most methods for how to freeze tomatoes require very little in the way of intricate tools. Certainly, there are some that will help speed up the process or enhance the ease by which you freeze your tomatoes, such as using a vacuum sealer for tomatoes placed in a plastic freezer bag.
But overall, how you freeze tomatoes and the tools that you use for the process really comes down to your own preference!
The one tool you will absolutely need no matter how you choose to freeze your tomatoes is a storage container of some sort. This can be as simple as a freezer bag, or you can use a plastic food storage container with a lid that fits on tightly. You may also opt to use a straight-sided mason jar.
NOTE: It’s important that these jars be straight-sided and not have a curved top with a shoulder. The nature of tomatoes is that their water content will expand as they freeze, and in a mason jar with a curved top, this expansion will cause the jar to splinter and even shatter.
In addition to your storage container, depending on which method you choose for how to freeze tomatoes, you may need:
- A paring knife
- A pot or saucepan for boiling water
- A bowl of ice water
- A colander
- A mixing bowl large enough to set the colander over
Do I Need a Baking Sheet?
While baking sheets are often listed as a common tool for freezing produce, if you place your whole or cut tomatoes on a baking sheet and freeze them individually before storing them in your freezer bags or other airtight containers, this will expose them to the cold air in your freezer and will cause freezer burn. This will alter the taste of your tomatoes and may make them unusable when you go to defrost them.
For this reason, we don’t recommend the use of a baking sheet as a tool as you prepare for how to freeze tomatoes.
How to Prepare Your Tomatoes for Freezing
Preparing Tomatoes: Freezing Whole and Unblanched
This is by far the simplest method for how to freeze tomatoes. To prepare whole tomatoes for freezing, all you need to do is select your best ripened and unblemished tomatoes, destem them, then wash them and pat them completely dry. At this point, they are ready to be stored whole in your storage container of choice and placed into the freezer.
It is even possible to do less preparation than that, and forego the washing and destemming until you thaw the tomatoes for future use!
The downside to processing your tomatoes whole is that they are likely to take up much more storage space. Large, whole tomatoes will require larger bags and larger or more numerous plastic storage containers or mason jars to fit everything in.
If freezer space is an issue for you, you may want to consider alternative methods for how to freeze tomatoes.
Preparing Tomatoes: Processing Before Freezing
The processing method for how to freeze tomatoes considers space and portion sizes, making it often less wasteful and more consumer-friendly in the long run!
To process your tomatoes, one method is to plan for the amount you may need per recipe, as if you were purchasing a jar of tomato sauce from the grocery store; then prepare your tomatoes for freezing in like-sized jars, such as in pints (which is 2 cups or equivalent to a single 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes) or in quart jars (which are twice the size of a pint).
To prepare for how to freeze your tomatoes, you will first want to wash the tomatoes and remove their stems. Then, using a paring knife, score the bottom of each tomato with an X shape (NOTE: This step is not necessary if you are freezing smaller tomato varieties or if you are not planning to blanch your tomatoes).
Next, you have the option to blanch your tomatoes. To accomplish this, you will need to boil a pot of water and place the tomatoes into it for about 30 seconds at a time (just long enough for the skin to start peeling upward where you have scored it).
Once the tomato skins begin to curl, use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to a bowl of ice water, then place them inside a colander set over a mixing bowl to help collect any excess liquid. After the tomatoes have cooled to the touch, it’s time to remove the skins; while doing this, be sure to continue collecting the excess liquid.
At this point, you have the choice of how you want to prepare your tomatoes in terms of size. You can halve or quarter them, or even process them fully into a tomato sauce before freezing. Once you have your tomatoes prepared in the size of your preference, you will need to pack them and their liquid into your storage containers.
Be sure to leave about an inch of headspace to avoid cracking the jar or container as the liquid expands, but make certain that the tops of the tomatoes themselves are fully covered.
If you notice air pockets between your tomatoes—which can cause freezer burn if left unaddressed—pushing a dinner knife gently into the jar or container will help alleviate them.
With your tomatoes processed and packed inside, it’s time to seal the container; now your tomatoes are ready for freezing!
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Freeze Tomatoes
What Are the Best Types of Tomatoes to Freeze?
While all different tomato varieties—from beefsteak heirloom tomatoes to cherry tomatoes—can do well in the freezer, what you need to consider when planning how to freeze tomatoes is the ripeness of your produce.
Only fully ripe and healthy tomatoes should be reserved for freezing, as the integrity and overall health of the tomato matter in how well it will stand up to the freezing process and how it will taste once it’s thawed.
How Long Do Frozen Tomatoes Last?
Though tomatoes can do well in the freezer for up to and occasionally a bit past the one-year mark, it’s recommended to try to use them within six months or so for optimal taste benefits.
How Should I Use My Frozen Tomatoes?
Like many other types of frozen fruit, when you freeze tomatoes, they do not retain their integrity in texture. Once defrosted, you will find you don’t have a firm tomato perfect for slicing on a sandwich or cubing up for a salad. Instead, your tomatoes will tend to be a bit mushy when thawed and may have a similar texture to a stewed tomato.
However, you can still use a defrosted tomato in all the ways you might use a stewed or cooked-down one! Once you’ve learned how to freeze tomatoes, consider using these frozen and then thawed-out tomatoes in recipes such as sauces, chilis, stews, and soups.
Now You Know How to Freeze Tomatoes
Feeling excited to put your bumper tomato crop to use now that you know how to freeze tomatoes the proper way? There’s lots more to learn about this delicious fruit! Visit our tomato page to learn more about how to grow, care for, and make use of all different sorts of tomatoes.